New Delhi: Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday presented a Rs 69,000 crore budget for 2021-22 in the Delhi Legislative Assembly. Themed as the “Deshbhakti Budget” this is Delhi’s first e-budget. From free vaccines for Delhi residents to the world’s first virtual school, the budget includes several plans for the national capital. The Sunday Guardian spoke to Manish Sisodia about this budget, MCD elections, and several other issues. Excerpts:
Q. The Rs 69,000 crore budget comprises a variety of proposals and plans. But the Opposition parties are calling the budget “hollow”, “directionless” and “visionless”. According to you, why this criticism?
A: The job of the Opposition is to see things critically. But as a government, the proposals and initiatives we have launched, especially in health and education, and in basic infrastructural amenities like water, electricity, or road, are done in a way that should happen in the national capital. We have done this for the past 5-6 years and we will continue to do so. Whatever we are doing, the results are there and the public is happy with our work. So, that’s why we are doing all these things.
Q: From this academic session, the Delhi government is planning to launch the “Deshbhakti Curriculum”. What is the objective behind this curriculum? What will be included in this curriculum?
A: Why do we provide education to our children? We don’t educate them just to make them a good engineer, a doctor, an advocate, or a journalist. We educate them so they become a good human or a good citizen. The path towards being a good citizen is in darkness. We see so many educated people doing atrocities towards women or society. There is so much negativity towards caste, or community, or religion. We need to get rid of these things and inculcate in the children the essence of being an Indian in such a way that the child prioritizes his nationality above his caste, creed, and religion. He or she should be proud to be an Indian. If there is something wrong in the system or the country, then he or she should take the responsibility to get rid of them. He or she should be a responsible citizen. This is the objective behind this curriculum. The motive is to awaken these emotional feelings from the children of Nursery to Class 8 so that he or she becomes a patriotic Indian. This is our purpose.
Q: Pollution has been consistent in Delhi. What is the funds allocation towards this issue? What steps will be taken to keep it in check?
A: We are doing source apportionment and we are identifying where there is maximum pollution and at what time. Whether it is coming from vehicles, dust, or stubble, we are identifying the sources. We are conducting a real-time study on this along with IIT Kanpur. This is one of the big steps. Along with this, we are also putting smoke towers, pollution towers. Major attention is being given to get rid of vehicular pollution. To get rid of vehicular pollution, e-vehicle is the biggest solution today. Since the day we introduced the EV Policy, the stake of e-vehicles has gone from 0.2% to 2.26% within 2-3 months. We have set a target till 2024 to achieve a 25% stake in e-vehicles and I believe we will achieve this goal soon. We want there should be a 100% dependency on e-vehicles. But it will take time.
Q: Your Switch Delhi Campaign is being applauded by industry experts. Do you believe this campaign will solve the pollution problem?
A: Earlier, people used to talk about e-buses. But it won’t work. In Delhi, if 1 lakh vehicles are commuting every day at a time, then there must be around 100 e-buses in them. This will not help. When all vehicles like scooters, cars, and bikes switch to e-vehicles, then only it will work.
Q: AAP has won 4 out of 5 seats in the MCD bypolls. The MCD elections are scheduled next year. Do you think this byelection was a test for the MCD elections next year?
A: Absolutely. People are fed up with the BJP’s system at the MCD level. The main work of the MCD is to clean the garbage and for the last 15 years, BJP has failed in it 100%. The other secondary work of MCD is in primary health, the BJP has failed in that too. BJP has failed Delhi. As they have seen our work in the last five years, now the people of Delhi are willing to vote for us.
Q: This budget includes several long-term plans. What are the short-term plans that people can benefit from?
A: We have included both short-term and long-term plans in the budget. We will provide sewer and pipelines to unauthorized colonies and these are some of the short-term plans. It’s not like we have only talked about goals till 2047. We are introducing a new board for students, new hospitals, colleges and these are also short-term plans. However, all of these are also the foundation of long-term plans.
Q: The government has announced free Covid vaccines for Delhi residents in government hospitals. How will you go about this vaccination drive? Why according to you, the BJP and Congress are criticizing this?
A: You see, the things BJP and Congress say are impossible, AAP is formed to make them possible. The Delhi government has shown this in the last six years. Whatever the Congress and BJP said is not possible, we have made it possible in the last six years. So, if the Arvind Kejriwal government has decided that the people of Delhi need free vaccines, then the government will make sure they get free vaccines no matter what the situation is.